Business & Entrepreneurship

Inside the Gift Guide

By Pippa Jack / November–December 2023
November 9th, 2023
Image of a beach chair

Long before cards and gifts clog up the mail and the stores are full of last minute shoppers, long before the sky turns to old concrete and it becomes clear your ice scraper is no longer in your trunk where you left it, in fact before the leaves here in Providence even start to turn, the BAM gets caught up in a sort of preemptive holiday madness. It was a hot and probably rainy day in July when Kristin Gladney ’04 got caught up with us, stopping by the Barrington, R.I., home of Kerry Lachmann. Kerry has been organizing BAM’s gift guide for almost as long as it’s existed—this is the fifteenth—and Kristin, after submitting an application and emailing back and forth with Kerry, had come to Kerry’s home that day to make her entry official: she was dropping off one of the prototypes for her new line of beach chairs. 

Even then, there were no guarantees. The chair might make it in (spoiler alert: see our story here) but then again it might not; last minute delays and substitutions and other routine crises mean Kerry learned a long time ago not to make any promises until after the Boston photoshoot wraps in August. People mail their stuff in anyway—or, in Kristin’s case, drop it off in person on a weekend, kids in tow and needing a bathroom break as she made a slight swerve on a summer road trip. Kerry takes it all in stride. Over the years, she’s assumed temporary guardianship of hundreds of items. There’s the easy stuff, things that are small or sturdy—jewelry or anything that comes in its own box. Then there’s the unwieldy, the easily broken, the terrifyingly valuable, and the massively heavy (one year, a water-filled rowing machine). It all goes to Kerry’s home now that we work a hybrid schedule, to Brown Mail Services’ relief (and surely to the irritation of Kerry’s husband, who nonetheless does not complain, at least to us). Offering the use of her bathroom to a stranger’s kids is far from the weirdest thing that has ensued. In fact, when Kristin stopped by to pick up her chair post-photoshoot, Kerry was out, so she texted Kristin the hiding place for her spare house key. It’s fair to say the gift guide is built on trust.

Offering her bathroom to a stranger’s kids is far from the weirdest thing that has ensued.

We started the guide to give a leg
up to Brown alumni entrepreneurs. It seems to work—we often hear accolades from participants, and serial makers return when they have a new product. One such is Jenny Knuth ’89, who was in Gift Guide 2008 and whose new line of jewelry glams up the story; knitting product designer Kayleigh Butera ’13 is such a force that she’s back (take a look) after just one year.

I’ve come to rely on the guide for my own gift giving—there’s always something unexpected, or unusually well designed, or just perfect for that teenager who disdains anything mass produced. This year, I’ll be perusing the story when I need to remember the discount code for something I just know my 11-year-old will love. Thanks to all you creators for taking some holiday stress off—and it’s not too soon to email about your entry for Gift Guide ’24!

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Related Issue
November–December 2023